Most of our political films promise us a messiah — a saviour in the form of a leader. With an exception of Annanukku Jey, another political comedy, our films in this sphere have been about an apolitical person being pushed into the realm. They rise up to the occasion, lifting up the system from the rut it has been stuck in for years in the process. We saw it in Mudhalvan, we saw it in Sarkar and also, in NOTA. The biggest thing that works for LKG is that Lalgudi Karuppaiah Gandhi is no hero, at least in the conventional sense. And that RJ Balaji, who makes his debut as a lead, doesn’t try to be one as well. (Here’s an A+ for that!)
Gandhi is no outsider to the world of politics. His father is a politician, a failed one at that He has been part of the mechanism right after high school. He isn’t here to serve the people; he is here to win, by hook or crook. Everything he does, is done with an eye on the voter base. And in order to further strengthen his political base, he brings political manager Sarala aka Sarah (Priya Anand) on board. The things that they do to gain attention are outrageous. But here’s the fun fact, they know it. “Are people talking” is the question, sadly one can’t deny that it does work. The pop culture and references are the highest in the first half and they are rather enjoyable because they come as passing references, without the burden of anchoring a story.
However, LKG falters when it tries to be serious. For a film that has ironic humour as its spine, Gandhi’s anger seems misplaced, even though on paper it makes sense. However, the film quickly snaps out of that zone and hits the play button on the brazen humour. Similarly, LKG very briefly dabbles with romance and also thankfully snaps out of it quickly. Except for one song, Sarah is and is only LKG’s political advisor; brownie points for a smart female lead who is there only for her job (Priya Anand’s poker face rendition adds to the comic effect). I am willing to forgive that blasphemous song as well only because we finally get a character who doesn’t cry foul about being friend-zoned and takes rejection without the usual drama. For a film that avoided cliches, I would have been happier had it bypassed the queer community as well. While the jokes aren’t exactly demeaning, the representation isn’t sensitive either.
Probably the first Tamil film to acknowledge the true ‘potential’ of memes and viral content, it shows the ugly side of viral content. Amid all the jokes, there is a fair point that LKG makes about manipulation on social media and also on corruption. There are moments where the film scares us of transforming into a message film. As the film progresses, the writing becomes more convenient. While I have my issues with that, one can’t deny the thought that the film propagates — that true change, even the smallest glimmer of it, can only come from us, the larger audience. With the elections around the corner, that is a useful message to have.